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the Apostle meets and obviates the objection, that the doctrine of justification by grace tends to encourage Christians to continue in sin, the ground on which he founds his denial of its possibility must be particularly attended to. This is the more necessary, as it is so generally misunderstood. Paul does not rest it on believers' having ceased, according to Mr Stuart, to feel the influence of sin, which is contrary to fact, to scripture, and to experience ; nor on any change more or less in themselves. Neither does he found it on the motive which Dr Macknight supposes, namely, that having died by sin they cannot
hope to live eternally by continuing in it;” nor does it mean, according to Chrysostom, quoted with approbation by Mr Tholuck, that they obey • it in nothing more.' The ground on which the Apostle repels the objection is exclusively that of the power and appointment of God, through union with Jesus Christ. It may here be remarked, that the answer which Paul gives to the supposed objection to his doctrine of justification cannot be understood by the natural man, to whom it must appear foolishness. Hence the same calumny against this part of divine truth is repeated to this day.
The objection proposed in the first verse follows from the doctrine of justification, and amounts to this, if we are justified by grace
absolved from guilt, and accounted righteous by the judgment of God, and are thus dead to sin, and if, consequently, our own works do not in
any degree contribute to bring us into this state of justification, may we not continue in sin, that grace, by which we are justified, may abound ? The incompatibility of this consequence with the doctrine of justification the Apostle exposes by showing that the sanctification of believers rests on the same foundation, and springs from the same source, as their justification ; and therefore, so far from the one being contrary to the other, they are absolutely inseparable. In the conclusion of the preceding chapter, he had declared that sin had reigned unto death. It reigned unto the death of Jesus Christ, the surety of his people, who, as is said in the tenth verse of the chapter before
6 died unto sin.” But as in his death its reign over him terminated, so its reign also terminated over all his people, who with him are dead to sin. The effect then of his death being the termination of the reign of sin, it was at the same time to them the commencement of the reign of grace, , which took place “ through righteousness,” namely, the everlasting righteousness brought in by his death. Instead, therefore, of being under the reign of sin, Christians are dead to it. They are not under the law, as is declared in verse 14, which is the strength of sin, but they are
under grace, whereby they serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. Heb. xiii. 28.
It should be observed, that when the Apostle here asserts that we are “ dead to sin,” he is not introducing something new, as would be the case were Dr Macknight's explanation of the passage, “ have died by sin," correct.
He is referring to what he had already said on the doctrine of justification, for his object in this place is to prove that the doctrine which he had been exhibiting does not lead to sin, according to the objection he is now combating. This, in effect, he had shown already, in the preceding chapter, in which he had exhibited the accompaniments of justification. Being justified by faith, he there says, we have peace with God, and access into a state of grace; we rejoice in hope of the glory of God; and not only so, but we glory in tribulations, which work patience, and experience, and hope; and we joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the reconciliation. All this is the very opposite of continuing in sin. But as the objection he had now stated is so constantly preferred, and so congenial to human nature, the Apostle still considered it proper directly to advert to it, and formally to repel such a calumny against his doctrine, by restating the ground of our justification, namely, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, ch. iv. 25, and by clearly drawing the conclusion of our having died and risen with him, to walk in that newness of life which in the fifth chapter he had been describing
The term “dead to sin,” which signifies justified from sin, v. 7, means dead to the condemning power of sin ; in other words, to its power to separate us from God; as it is said, 6. Your iniquities have separated between you and your God,” Is. lix. 2, and in ch. viii. that " to them who are in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation." The ground, then, of the Apostle's peremptory denial that believers might continue in sin that grace may abound, is their union with Jesus Christ, through whom they are dead to the condemning power of sin; and being thus brought into a state of reconciliation with God, are consequently become partakers of the blessings of the new covenant. This is the sum and force of what Paul here teaches on this subject; and in the 14th verse he accordingly asserts, in direct terms, what is the result of it, namely, that sin shall not have dominion over them, for they are not under the law
It may further be remarked, , that although the above is the ground of the Apostle's denial that believers might continue in sin that grace may abound, and of their abso
but under grace.
lute security that it shall not be so, yet in what is stated as conducting to this conclusion, motives calculated powerfully to influence believers are not wanting. The consideration that they died with Christ, and are risen with him to walk in newness of life, in the 3d and 4th verses, with the certainty that they shall live with him in future glory, expressed in the 5th and 8th verses, furnish the strongest motives to the love of God, which is the grand spring of obedience; for we love him when we know that he hath first loved us. That this view of the death of Christ, and of our death with him, operates as a powerful motive to the love of God, is shown, 2d Cor. v. 14, “ For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead (or all died). And that he died for all all believers), that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again.”. Although, then, the exhibition of motives is not here the principal thing intended—the solid ground and absolute security, as exhibited by the Apostle, against believers living in sin, being their union with Christ-yet motives are not excluded.
The expression, then, “ dead to sin," has no reference whatever to the character of believers, as seems to be so generally under